Former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Vt.) died Wednesday at age 82. A former Democrat, he often broke ranks with Democrats and, in his last campaign, broke completely and ran as an independent. He won.

He was honest. Plain spoken. Pro-American. Pro-Israel. No wonder he broke with the Democrats.

Leiberman had been the Democratic nominee for vice president, running on the ticket with one of those losing Democrats. He ran for president in the Democratic primaries in 2004. That didn't work.

Joe Lieberman was one of dozens of political candidates ferried from campaign stop to stop by John "Johnny" Williams of Pike Road. Williams is well known in state and national political circles as "the Political Bus Man." He owns and drives buses equipped for campaigning, candidates and their traveling entourages.

After hearing of the death of his former passenger Lieberman, Williams felt led to tell his humorous and telling story of his friend, "Mr. Joe":

I am very saddened by the death of Joe Lieberman today. He was a dear friend, that traveled many miles on my buses. He traveled with his Pard, John McCain when McCain ran for President. You could hear them laughing and having a good time in the back of the bus.

Joe was an Independent, and also traveled with John Kerry when he ran.

My best Memories of Joe are when we were down in Miami, where it was hot as blazes. It was Mr. Joe’s birthday, and the girls quietly got him a huge decorated birthday cake. They set it on the long counter and stacked stuff around it to keep it out of sight.

They had a site picked out to bring it out to Mr. Joe. Traffic was a killer and my driver ‘Doc’ was wheeling it. We were a little late for an event two miles ahead with a crowd of about 2,500 supporters.

About that time a small car slammed on brakes, and my Rennaisance bus, had super brakes, so Doc had to stand up on his brakes. And then it happened, out of hiding came the colorful birthday cake. Well, Mr. Joe was sitting in the dinette, which was at the end of the counter, facing forward watching the people wave at the wrapped bus. That huge cake hit Mr. Joe squarely in the back of his head. Cake went everywhere. Joe hollered, “Clean me up, clean me up, I have to speak in less than five minutes to 2,500 screaming supporters.”

The girls jumped up and grabbed some towels, and began wiping the icing off his head and tried to get it out of his matted hair. It was even in his ears, and they couldn't get it all. He looked like he was wearing one of those multi-colored wigs with all of different colors. His coat was ruined, and he had to take it off, but that was a familiar scene in Miami.

Mr. Joe held his head up high and strutted into the event. He had them howling, sharing the story of the birthday cake. He even had some icing in his eye brows. They were crying because he told it like a champ.

He then hopped back on the bus, smiled and said that he was afraid because some of those old biddies wanted to lick him, and he didn't skip a beat. There is not another one like him. RIP. Mi Amigo

- Johnny Williams, The Bus Man, Pike Road, Alabama

Jim' Zig' Zeigler writes about Alabama's people, places, events, groups and prominent deaths. He is a former Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor. You can reach him for comments at

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